Naoussa Summer Stew with Fried Cheese / Mantza
The Mediterranean Diet stretches from the tables of Crete to the larder of the North, where a cornucopia of peppers and other delicious garden vegetables are combined into this unique dish. Mantza (for “to eat”) is a recipe rooted in the traditions of the Vlachs, a once itinerant shepherding tribe who settled in N. Greece and are said to be descendants of Roma soldiers. They speak an ancient Romance language unrelated to Greek.
- 2 large eggplants washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2 1/2-cm cubes
- 2 to 3 medium zucchini washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch/2 ½ -cm cubes
- 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil divided
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 3 red bell peppers seeded and diced into 1-inch/2.5-cm chunks
- 2 sweet red long fleshy pepper, seeded and diced, as for the green
- 2 large tomatoes grated, about 1 ½ to 2 cups
- ½ pound/225 g kefalotyri or feta cheese, cut into 1-inch/2.5-cm cubes
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
- 3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Lightly salt the eggplant and zucchini cubes in a colander and let stand for about a half hour to drain. Do not rinse.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet or wide pot over high heat and sauté the onion and peppers for a few minutes, to soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the eggplant and zucchini over high heat until the vegetables are lightly browned and crisp around the edges. Add the onion-pepper mixture back in. Pour in the tomatoes and half a cup water. Cook, half-covered over low heat, until the vegetables are tender and the pan juices thick.
Just before removing the vegetables from the heat, toss the cheese cubes into the pot. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste as well as with paprika and cayenne. Remove from heat and serve on a platter or on individual plates, garnished with a little fresh parsley.